Statement Art

By Mary Nooter Roberts
University of California, Los Angeles

NigeriaBenin Kingdom artist

Head of an Oba


H. 29.2 cm (11 1/2")

Indiana University Art Museum, 75.98

When art forms are made to affirm the status quo and to glorify the ruling body, we refer to them as "statement arts” (Roberts 1985). Such art forms serve either to commemorate particular heroes, rulers, or events or to enhance and reinforce status, position, wealth, and power. Statement art is more formal and often is intended to elevate the ruler to a superhuman position and signal the continuity of the kingship.

Oba of Benin at chief’s thanksgiving ceremony, Benin KingdomNigeria, 1994. Photo by Kathy Curnow.